The discussion below is somewhat technical, more so that my usual posts. It goes to the original languages of the Scriptures, but I am giving you all the definitions and explaining all the nuances right on the spot. If you care to read through it, I think you will discover something new and quite exciting.
Here’s a very curious phenomenon that I recently picked up on in the scriptures.
Genesis 2:7 (KJV)
7 And the Lord God formed man (אָדָם – adam) of the dust (עָפָר – aphar) of the ground (אֲדָמָה – adamah), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (נָ֫פֶשׁ – nephesh).
The word “soul” (נָ֫פֶשׁ – “nephesh”) is rendered in NKJV and a lot of other modern translations as “being”. For the purposes of this discussion, I will stick with the word “soul” as it uniquely maps into both Hebrew and Greek equivalents. The downside is that the word “soul” does have a lot of baggage passed down through the centuries.
Strong (H5315) defines the word נָ֫פֶשׁ – “nephesh” as: “a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion”. Based on that, let’s constrain the meaning of the word to mean 2 things: 1) “living being that has an identity”, and 2) life (not just a fact of biological existence) lived by such living being. That definition should semantically reflect a more or less complete range of meaning, without dragging in most of the religious baggage into it.
For the word “man”, the Hebrew word used here is אָדָם – adam. God made adam (a human being) out of אֲדָמָה – adamah – ground, hence the name “Adam”. Literally means a man of ground / soil / dirt / earth, or earth-man. It’s similar to calling your car “a hunk of metal” by its primary material source.
By consequence, that description will fit all those “in Adam”, i.e. his natural offspring:
Genesis 5:2 (KJV)
2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Here you see that Adam is a name for both males and females. As a name proper, it refers to Adam the man; in a descriptive sense, it refers to the entire human race.
So, a human was formed from the dust of the ground. That’s step No. 1 – human’s physical make-up.
Next, God breathed the breath of life (in Gen 7:22 it’s identified as the “breath of the spirit of life”, although some translations, including Septuagint, omit the “the spirit of” portion of that verse, possibly because both “breath” and “spirit” in Greek are denoted by the same word).
So, that brings us to step 2 – man became a living soul (life-capable being with a unique identity). If he “became” a soul, then he “is” a soul.
Now, if you want to describe the composition of a human that would correspond to reality in the case above, it would be “a human (adam) is a soul (living being), he lives in a body, he has a spirit”. In Greek, the word πνεῦμα – “pneuma” – is literally a “breath-effect”. As such, it’s defined as “spirit, breath, wind”, and a form of that word is used to translate the word “breath” here in Septuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures).
Now, this passage:
10 ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood (דָּם – “dam”), I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life (נָ֫פֶשׁ – “nephesh”) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls (נָ֫פֶשׁ – “nephesh”); for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (נָ֫פֶשׁ – “nephesh”).’ 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’
The word “blood” is an interesting one. It’s דָּם – “dam”, which is the word a-dam without the first letter. But I want to make a different point – namely, that the word “life” here is again נָ֫פֶשׁ – “nephesh”. If you use that word consistently in v. 11 (which translates the same word exact once as “life” and twice as “soul”, in the same verse!), the whole passage will make more sense.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that the word “life” and “soul” are used more or less interchangeably here. Again let’s not bring in the concept of the “soul” as informed by modern theology into this discussion just yet, let’s just stay with the texts.
Now, let’s jump to the New Covenant.
1 Corinthians 15
21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
In Adam all die. (As an aside – now that we know what the name “Adam” means, this verse paints a fuller picture, doesn’t it? In Gen 2:7 Adam is said to be fashioned from the dust (aphar) of the ground (adamah). In Gen 3:19, it says this: “dust (aphar) you are, and to dust (aphar) you shall return”. In Gen 3:14 God said to the serpent that he would eat dust (aphar) all the days of his life. Quite a prediction for an Adamic man, isn’t it? Good thing we’ve changed heritage! But you see how studying this out in its original language brings out the nuances that could not be possibly picked up by any translation.)